It was just supposed to be a routine doctor’s appointment. But Kalyn Huey was suspicious.
“I knew something was up because my mom kept telling me to dress up,” said Huey, 18, of Altus.
Tuesday morning, in the middle of her regular appointment with Joan Merrill, M.D., of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, Huey’s suspicions were confirmed. In a very, very good way.
When Huey entered an OMRF conference room, she was greeted by about a dozen people, including Cherry Murray of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Oklahoma. “The Make-A-Wish Foundation is going to fly you to Los Angeles to meet Orlando Bloom on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean II,” announced Murray. The crowd—which included Huey’s mother, boyfriend, doctor and nurses—cheered.
Huey’s cheeks reddened as Murray presented her with Pirates of the Caribbean memorabilia, including an autograph book for her upcoming trip. “Now everybody gets to see me blush,” said Huey, managing a shy smile. “I can’t think right now.”
Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s gift, Huey, who was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease lupus at the age of 12, will fly with her family to Los Angeles next month. Once there, she will realize her long-held wish of meeting Bloom, who has starred in such films as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Pirates of the Caribbean and the upcoming Elizabethtown (part of which was filmed in Oklahoma City earlier this year).
“I cannot think of anyone more deserving than Kalyn,” said Dr. Merrill, who has been treating Kalyn at OMRF for four years. “She has been through a lot.”
Since being diagnosed with the disease, which has no cure and is life-threatening, Huey has been repeatedly hospitalized. She has suffered liver failure, painful arthritis and undergone countless blood transfusions. This spring, she spent two months in the hospital, suffering from a lupus-induced blood disorder that caused kidney failure, seizures and uncontrollable high blood pressure.
Merrill recalls one particular moment during the hospitalization that encapsulates Huey’s character. “Kalyn was in the intensive care unit, extremely ill. She just woke up, and she looked at me and said, ‘You’d better get your act together, because my prom is in a couple of weeks.’”
Unfortunately, Huey missed her prom. But she left the hospital in May and is again attending Altus High, where she’s just begun her senior year. “I’m looking forward to having some fun,” said Huey, whose hobbies include drawing and reading.
As the crowd thinned out, Huey prepared to finish her doctor’s appointment—she still needed to have her blood drawn before returning to Altus. “She’s a tough nut,” said Huey’s mother, Kittie, wiping tears from her eyes. “She never cries.”
Kittie Huey smiled. “Kalyn’s real special to us. And this trip is going to be a dream come true.”
About OMRF and Joan Merrill, M.D.:
Chartered in 1946, OMRF (www.omrf.org) is a nonprofit biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding and curing human disease. Its scientists focus on such critical research areas as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, lupus and cardiovascular disease. OMRF is home to Oklahoma’s only member of the National Academy of Sciences.
Joan Merrill, M.D., heads OMRF’s clinical pharmacology research program. A nationally known rheumatologist, she was chosen last year as the first-ever medical director of the Lupus Foundation of America. Merrill specializes in treating and researching lupus and other autoimmune diseases.